Easy, Creamy Beef and Shells

updated Oct 6, 2020
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Easy, Creamy Beef and Shells

If you grew up loving Hamburger Helper, you're going to love this quick and easy from-scratch version of cheesy beef and shells.

Serves 4 to 6

Prep30 minutes

Cook40 minutes

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Credit: Christine Han; Food Styling: Pearl Jones

A one-pot dinner makes weeknights a breeze, but a one-pot dinner that makes creamy, cheesy, beefy pasta? Well that’s just pure joy. If you grew up loving Hamburger Helper, you’re going to love this quick from-scratch version of cheesy beef and shells.

The whole thing couldn’t be easier. You’ll season and brown ground beef; add pasta shells, savory beef broth, and tangy tomato sauce; and then finish off the whole skillet with a little cream and a lot of cheese.

Credit: Christine Han; Food Styling: Pearl Jones

Give Beef and Shells the One-Pot Pasta Treatment

If you’ve ever made a one-pot pasta, you know that cooking the pasta directly in the sauce is a shortcut to creaminess, because as it cooks the pasta releases starch that thickens the cooking liquid. In this beefy version, we’re upping the creaminess factor by finishing the dish with a bit of cream. You can use half-and-half in a pinch, but we prefer heavy cream — it has more fat and doesn’t curdle in the acidic tomato sauce (expect a slightly grainy sauce with half-and-half).

As for the cheese, sharp white cheddar is our favorite — but Colby Jack and mild cheddar also work well. Whatever you do, don’t skimp!

Easy, Creamy Beef and Shells

If you grew up loving Hamburger Helper, you're going to love this quick and easy from-scratch version of cheesy beef and shells.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 1 pound

    lean ground beef

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    onion power

  • 2 cups

    beef broth

  • 8 ounces

    dried pasta shells

  • 1 (15-ounce) can

    tomato sauce

  • 8 ounces

    sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)

  • 1/2 cup

    heavy cream or half-and-half

Instructions

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add 1 pound lean ground beef and cook until cooked through and browned. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon onion powder, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. 

  2. Stir in 2 cups beef broth, 8 ounces dried pasta shells, and 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce. Cover and cook until the shells are tender and the sauce is slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, shred 8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese (about 2 cups).

  3. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream or half-and-half and 2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar until the cheese is melted.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.